Edwin R. Hanson
Edwin Richard Hanson accompanied with Ralph Alfonso Gastelum in this interview, were both soldiers in the 3rd Squad, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Heavy Machine Gun Platoon. Edwin Hanson was born January 19, 1931 in Oakland, California where he joined the Marine Reserves in 1948 before graduating from Oakland Technical High School in February of 1949. Both he and Ralph A Gasteleum forged their bond as friends at Camp Pendleton, California, and within 2 weeks of basic training, they boarded the USS President Jackson and sailed to Japan. Soon after, both men would make textbook history with their amphibious arrival at Inchon landing on September 15, 1950. Edwin Hanson shared their landing at high tide (3rd Wave, Boat 5, Blue Beach) that evening, slogging their way to shore over the hill, sharing grisly attack scenes, and the destruction of the enemy. Many years later, the two would discover that the night Edward Hanson threw hand grenades near their Regiments’s resting position, not knowing Ralph Gasteleum was trapped in a fox hole on the other side of Edward Hanson’s position, helped save their lives. Edward Hanson shared some of the most riveting stories from Inchon, Wonsan Landing, Chosin Reservoir, and the Hamheung Evacuation.
The Incheon Landing on September 15, 1950
Ralph Gastelum explained about the ship circling the water around nightfall before landing on the beach and he recalled his personal experience in the large foxhole they took cover in. Edwin Hanson's boat was supposed to land around 5:00 PM as the 3rd wave, Boat 5, on Blue Beach at high tide, but they lost one of the tracks off of the vehicle which was why the were encircling the area before they could land. There was a jeep that had an electrical short in the horn and continued to honk as they were headed to shore unloaded out of the Amtrack and slogged their way through mud in the last remaining clean pair of Dungarees he had. Once they made it to shore down the road, they climbed a hill and 3 Soviet T-34 tanks coming right towards them. US forces hit the gas tanks located in the back of the tank, watching them blow up right in front of him.
Beyond the Beach During the Incheon Landing
After advancing over the next couple of days at Inchon, they were under attack by North Korean machine gunners that had dug a U-shaped fox hole and were shooting over Edwin Hanson and Ralph Gastelum. A mortar shell dropped onto the fox hole and the firing stopped. When they made it to the fox hole, the bodies of the 2 men were cut in half at the waist. The legs up to the hip and stayed in the fox hole while the rest of their bodies laid in the dirt along side the fox hole.
Edwin Hanson Captures His First POW
As they were advancing throughout Seoul, Edwin Hanson and his regiment came across a street intersection with sand bags filled on each corner that minimized the space from 30-40 ft wide down to 10 ft. A US Tank was hit by a North Korean sniper that was shooting with a 50 caliber automatic weapon, and Edwin Hanson was peaking around the corner to try and find where the sniper was located while the guys were crossing the intersection, but his section leader, Howe, had been shot in the heel. Therefore, he put his M2 Carbine on automatic in an attempt to shoot into a building he thought the sniper was located and he said he, "fell right on his ass." When Edwin Hanson stood up, a North Korean soldier came into view and he stuck the gun up to the North Korean, but instead of killing him, he captured the North Korean soldier.
Experiences During the Wonsan Landing
After the Seoul recapture, the men were now at the Wonsan Landing where they were sent to secure a pass that North Koreans were using to get away. The North Koreans had barricaded the road and began to open fire on US troops. Edwin Hanson described how over 93 North Koreans were killed and 7 US troops were killed including Sergeant Beard from his regiment.
The Chosin Reservoir Being Overrun at Kor-'o-ri
The first Chinese Edwin Hanson encountered at Kor-'o-ri was at night about 5 meters away. The enemy was carrying a Thompson submachine gun and it missed Edwin Hanson after firing 2 rounds at him. Flares were thrown into the sky to detect the location of the enemy and that's when Edwin Hanson (at the time he was on top of a hill looking down at their camp) discovered there were 5 Chinese at their tents. Edwin Hanson threw 4 grenades and 2 went off, so the following morning he went down and picked up the 2 that didn't go off and threw the remaining grenades at their front lines. Edwin Hanson ended up saving Ralph Gastelum's life when he threw those grenades because it gave Ralph Gastelum time to get out of the fox hole and run to the top of the hill.
First Shots at the Chinese at Chosin Reservoir
After the US knocked out tanks that were rolled up near their regiment, one of the Chinese enemy played dead near the campfire they were sitting at. As US troops were heating C-rations by the campfire, Edwin Hanson noticed about 15-20 yards away, the enemy had lifted up off the frozen ground. The Chinese troops had a burp gun to start to shooting at the US troops sitting by the campfire. Luckily, Edwin Hanson shot and killed the Chinese soldier attacking his regiment.
The Dead and Their Affects on PTSD
Ralph Gastelum described the number of bodies on the battlefield. They laid as far as the eye could see; both the enemy and their fallen comrades were frozen the way they had fell. There was a bulldozer that was shoveling North Korean soldiers bodies and covering them up. The moaning and the groaning at night just got to them both and built bitterness most US soldiers have for warfare. Edwin Hanson leaned over to point at his wife to recall what happens to him both awake and asleep, but they have learned to cope with it.
"Home by Christmas" Was Just a Rumor
After the Hamheung Evacuation, the US soldiers came down from the Chosin Reservoir and traveled to Masan to celebrate Christmas with the famous 'Home by Christmas' Dinner. This was when MacArthur gave a speech promising the men to be home before Christmas. Edwin Hanson said that this rumor was killed shortly after they got to Masan. "Chestee" was what Edwin Hason called MacArthur and he said that it was only a rumor because they wouldn't be going home. Edwin Hason didn't mind though; he was just excited to be aboard a ship and not in the Chosin Reservoir again.
I Jumped In Front of a Torpedo Bomber to Mail My Postcard
A Torpedo Bomber (plane) came through Kor-'o-ri to pick up wounded soldiers and it had the big bay door below it open to drop torpedoes. Edwin Hanson had a postcard that he wanted to deliver to his mother, but the bomber was about to leave without Edwin Hanson's mail. The bomber was sitting at the end of the runway, trying to take off, so Edwin Hanson ran down the middle of the runway blocking his takeoff and waving his letter. When he got up close, Edwin Hanson crawled up on the wing to an open window, so the bombardier took the postcard as Edwin Hanson slid down the wing.
Anxious Over Flamethrowers and Frogs
Edwin Hanson described preparing to launch the attack on Incheon. He also explained the first night ashore and the anxiety it caused the men in their foxholes. He described being extremely nervous about something moving in his foxhole which turned out to be a frog in the morning light.
[Beginning of Recorded Material]
E: Edwin R. Hanson, E D W I N middle initial R for Richard, H A N S O N.
I: What is the ethnic origin of Hanson? Is that
R: Ralph A is my middle initial for Alfonso Gastelum is my last name, and that’s spelled G A S T E L U M.
I: Is there an ethnic origin of that name?
R: Uh huh.
I: Um hm.
R: Um hm.
I: What is your birthday?
E: January 19, 1931.
I: And, Ralph?
R: April 15, 1931.
I: So you born in the same year?
R: Yeah we were, weren’t we?
R: Yeah, you think you’re older than I am or younger [LAUGHS]
E: I’m a little older than you.
R: Oh God, no.
I: And Edwin, where were you born?
E: Oakland, California.
I: Oakland, California. And how about Ralph?
R: Tucson, Arizona.
I: Tucson, Arizona. Tell me about your family when you were growing up and the siblings.
R: Okay. You’re gonna start with me?
I: Yeah, Ralph.
T: Okay. I have, at the time, it was, I guess the population of Tucson about 40,000 at the time and was duly isn’t, too
many places to, to enjoy you might say. There was a lot of desert. I have, at this, had that at, have it, had that at the time, three, four brothers and three sisters. [inaudible] That includes me. Okay, three brothers and two sisters. But since then, well you know, I’ve lost a couple of brothers at this point. My mother
she was born in, I believe, Nogales, Arizona. My dad was born from Silver Bell, Arizona
I: Um hm.
R: and we had a good upbringing. Went to Tucson High School there and attended the University of Arizona, got married very young, and decided to go into the Marine Corp. Reserves at the age of 18 at the time, 19 at the time.
I kind of followed my uncle’s footsteps. He was a, a Marine who enlisted in 1939 and was killed in the Battle of Corregidor. But, and that’s how I got involved with the Marine Corp., and
I: Where did you get the basic military training?
R: Basic training?
R: I was in Tucson with the Easy Company when I joined there, and basic training was basically at
two weeks at Camp Pendleton every year and monthly meetings aboard ship on the way to Korea and, and Japan. We didn’t have any boot camp.
I: Edwin. Your family, siblings?
E: We had, there was nobody in my, my family that had military, well, I shouldn’t say that. My dad was, was, joined the Army Air Corp. In 1925 or
’26, and got out in, bought his way out in 1930, and met my mother in San Francisco, and they got married on February 4, 1930. That’s not right.
I: No. 1930, are you kidding me? You born 1931.
E: Yeah. They were, they were married just before I was born,
I: Ah, okay.
R: I was, yeah. I was, I was born in 1931,
R: And dad was basically a truck driver, a milk truck in Oakland, and my mother worked,
the jobs I know is she, beginning of World War II she was working in a hamburger joint
I: Um hm..
E: And so she knew of a lot of kids that went to war in World War II, and then the, the day
that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, she was working in a bakery. I remember seeing, hearing it on the radio what’s going on and running down the, the two or three blocks to tell my mother the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. I went to grammar school in Oakland
junior high school, graduated from Oakland Technical High School in 1949, January, February of ’49. I joined the Marine Corp. I guess in ’48 and
I: Reserve you mean.
E: Reserves. And
E: And went to one boot camp, er not boot camp but summer camp at, at 19, for two weeks I guess it was, and
I: [inaudible] Let me ask you this question to both of you.
I: Did you know anything about Korea before you left for Korea?
R: No. Not, well actually
not really, no. Not until it
I: When did you depart from the United States, from where? Did you depart together? Did you know?
R: No, I wasn’t, I’m sorry, go ahead.
E: We were in the same squad.
R: Yeah, we were in the same squad before we departed. You mean departed the United States?
R: Okay. Yeah, we were. We were on the same ship and everything.
I: Did you know each other at the time?
E: That’s when we got to know each other.
R: Yeah. Right up, right at the time. We, I guess we all gathered, was it Camp Pendleton at the time or was it San Diego?
I: Well, yeah.
R: Yeah. And
And they assigned us to different outfits, you know. We were just, but at the time, that’s when we really got to know each other on ship, all through the training.
I: You left from San Diego?
I: Um hm. What was the first encounter with the two of you? How did you like each other?
R: Well, you know? I don’t know. We, I really didn’t know Ed too much at that time. We just
were strangers, and, but we had to work together and train together, and it took time to really bond together I think. But by the time we really got to, we really know, we knew each other, you had to, and
I: You said same squad. What is the unit name? What is it?
E: It was the 3rd, 3rrd squad
I: Uh huh.
E: of the
R: Weapons Company?
E: of, of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines. Weapons Company.
R: And Machine Gun platoon.
E: Machine Gun platoon.
R: Right. Yeah.
E: Heavy Machine Gun platoon.
I: Machine Gun platoon.
I: One from, one from Arizona. One from, one from California
I: Never met each other, but you all belong to the same squad.
I: Same platoon.
I: Same battalion, same regiment.
I: What a coincidence. This a destiny.
R: Yeah. There’s actually another fellow down here at this reunion who, [inaudible]
E: In Korea we slept in the same tent.
R: Yeah, we had to. Yeah., and, and most, in some cases same foxhole, you know.
E: Yeah, that’s right.
I: I mean, you two, two of you wound up yourself
allies together, right?
I: With each other.
R: Yes, we had to. I tell you, it was, it was cold at times, but you did what you can to keep, keep warm.
I: Tell me about the, one the way to Japan. I mean, did you go to Korea, when did you leave actually?
R: Well, let’s see. God, it’s, we
E: The 15th of August.
E: 1950. We, we were, we both reported in in Camp Pendleton at the same time, the first of August, 1950. We had two weeks there to get some physical training, a lot of walking, hiking
I: Um hm.
E: and to draw weapons and clothing, and two weeks after that
on the 15th of August, we went aboard ship, the President Jackson, and San Diego, and we sailed for Japan on the 15th of August.
I: Yeah. Where did you arrive in Japan?
R: Do you recall? I think it was, I don’t remember the date exactly.
E: About the 1st of Sep,
I: Hahsu, Kobe
R: Kobe. We got into Kobe, uh huh. And then we went to
E: The 15th of September.
On the first of September.
I: Um hm.
E: About a week later, we went aboard a LST in Kobe, and
I: Landed in Inchon?
R: No, we went to Oatsu for some additional training.
E: We went up to Oatsu by train
we were there close to two weeks, and then we went back to Kobe and aboard the LST, and sailed on the 7th, I believe, of
R: Um hm.
E: and, which was in the midst of a storm.
We had big steel pontoon sections tied, one on each side of the LST, or yes, the LST, which was tied only at the top, and those sections in the storm would ride out on the water and come slapping back
banging the hull of the LST, and of course there was not sleeping arrangements so you slept on the deck
R: Um hm. I remember that. You’re right.
E: Oh, I remember I talked to a sailor that was the crew on the LST, and he let me sleep
in his bunk when he was on duty. So I did have a mattress to sleep on sometimes, which was the lowest one next to the floor in, in the stack on his ship.
I: Did you have a [inaudible] Inchon Landing?
R: Yes. We were both involved with the Inchon Landing
R: on September 15.
I: September 15, first day.
R: Trying to keep, yes, exactly.
I: Did you landed in Inchon or Wolmido?
R: We landed in Inchon, uh huh.
I: Please tell me the date that you landed in Inchon. Was it difficult? Was it, were you anxious or?
R: Well, yeah. We were. We loaded up on some landing crafts and circled out there I believe for a while. Yeah, they were shelling the beach and whatever the can reach and, constantly. Oy, just like you see in the movies. It was amazing to watch. And all of a sudden
they, we went in in waves into the, but, you know, it wasn’t that difficult once we got war, we, we, we, on land as I recall, moving right up inland, and that first night, as I recall, it was getting dark. I experienced, can’t recall, of any major, major resistance. Do you, Ed, at that time? But I remember, we were anxious.
There’s no question about it. But there was a huge hole there, and we were able to take coverage wherever we could, and that first night we were just, of course there was no sleep involved. But there was a little, something moving in my foxhole, and it was pitch black as I recall. All we could hear is this moaning and groaning and all, flame throwers and all of that stuff further down, but there was something moving in my foxhole. It was, I didn’t realize that it was the next morning when
we had daylight it was a frog.
R: Kind of scared the heck out of you. Yeah, you never know. You’re in a strange country and strange land and you have
I: U. S. Marine Corp. scared by the frog.
R: We had no idea. I had no idea. But boy, that was, then we started to move out.
E: We were young kids.
R: Yeah, we were, yeah, we were.
I: Actually, what were you thinking at the time that you were landing in? What did you see there?
E: Let’s back up a little bit because we were the third wave, boat 5, Blue Beach, supposed to be 5:00 when we went ashore, 5:00 in the afternoon which was high tide, and, but when we came out of the, the LST, came up and got in, over the, the deck in the LST, the lower deck
and into the water, we lost a track off of the, off of the vehicle our unit, the LST, and we did a lot of circling with only one track running. What I remember that time was there was a destroyer not too far from us and
shooting at the shore, and all of a sudden he had a, there was a, he was triangulated with, with the enemy shells coming in, and I remember that destroyer sitting in the water and all of a sudden a big puff of black smoke and the bough came up, and he moved, and right where he was, had been parked, was a shell.
The next one would have landed on his fantail.
E: We, we would get splashed every once in a while I remember. But never really shot at us. We were out there circling until another, another Amtrak came alongside, towed us into where we got stuck in the mud. And
it was now nighttime, and I remember being there. I remember the, the horn on the Jeeps that was in there. Do you remember getting wet and shorting out? The corn, the horn was blowing, and, but we went over the side of the LST and the, or the Amtrak, and, and slogged our way into, through the mud
and what I remember is I had just put on my last clean pair of dungarees that day, and we were shit up to our hips. We got up on the shore, and that night we, that day go, daylight, we hiked up the road a ways and then up, up over the hill.
When we got to the top of the hill, we could look down on the next valley. There were three T34 tanks that were coming toward us. They were a longways away from us. But I remember they had their big gas tanks on the back end, and I remember they were getting hit by our fire and catching fire and burning up. You remember that?
R: And I’d bring a little up for me because I’ve, the recall is so difficult at times, but he, it’s good. But you’re bringing out some of those memories, Ed, as I remember some of that. You’re right.
E: These are; these are memories that have gone through my mind for
E: 65 years, and
R: There’s some things
E: You know, I just feel good to get them out, get somebody listening to you.
R: That’s wonderful. I, now I can start to remember some of these things that just coming back. Gosh. That’s great.
The next, next thing I remember is, is some combat. We were, next day or so we were advancing, and there was a, remember, there was machine gun fire going over our heads, and all of a sudden it stopped, and when we got up to where the machine gun was, the,
the North Koreans had dug their foxhole and machine gun hole in the, in a u-shape, and the, the part that went down the, the center of the u was where the machine gun had been mounted, and that’s where the can, mortar shell had landed and blew up the machine gun,
but at two, took the two enemy gunners cut them right off at the waist. Their legs and up to the hip stayed in the foxhole, and the upper parts of their bodies were laying out in the dirt alongside the, the hole. But the, I could see it to this day what it looked like and, you know, blood and guts and, and
I: How does this brutal images affect, still affect you? Ralph?
R: Yes, it does. You know, there’s some images you just don’t forget. I guess one of the images was the site of a, of a body flattened out by tank trucks. That is just amazing just to see, just flat, you know. You just can’t, it’s surreal. You can’t believe it.
And, and the sites that you see along the way as we fought on up to Seoul. But just, yeah, it does. At this, it really, something you just don’t forget. You can talk about it much, but you just don’t forget. Yeah.
I: So you were headed to Seoul?
R: Yes, to Seoul.
I: Both of you?
I: How was Seoul that you saw for the first time?
E: Everything was on fire.
R: Yeah. It was destroyed in fire.
E: It seemed like every building was burning.
R: One of the sites I remember, while I was in Seoul, too, comes to mind is that we’re at a corner there. I don’t know if we were just waiting or taking a break or whatever, and I had, remember, I don’t know if you remember. There was a, and ROK and some Korean civilian arguing. This guy had a bike, and they were arguing
back and forth. I was just sitting there watching them argue, and all of a sudden this ROK pulled out a, an automatic weapon and shot him dead right in front of me, and I found out later that obviously he was stealing grenades or whatever. I don’t know what he was gonna do with them, but, but they, he was executed. No questions asked. It was just done, you know.
R: That was, yeah.
E: The next thing I remember is we advanced to a, a wide, big intersection, and there were sandbags blocking these corners. They were, instead of a 30 – 40’ wide intersection, the sandbags kept things down to about 10’, and one of our tanks
came up the road and was hit by a 50 caliber automatic weapon from down the side street. A North Korean was firing at the tank, and the tank stopped, and meantime I remember peaking around this corner
and looking for whoever was sniping at us from up the road while we were, while our guys were crossing the intersection. The first one across the intersection was our section leader from Berkley, remember him, Howe, Jim Howe I believe his name was.
R; No, I don’t think I remember him
E: H O W E. He was, he was the, the boss over
R: Um hm.
E: Our squad leaders
R: Um hm, um hm.
And anyway, they never did see actually where he was firing, but I remember firing my M2 carbine at this window around the corner, and the first time I put it on automatic and pulled the trigger, I had it up like this, and it knocked me right flat on my ass. That was, I had never fired it
in full automatic before, didn’t know what it was going to do, and it knocked me flat down, and I got up, and about that time the North Korean soldier came into view, and I captured him.
I: You captured him?
E: Yeah. I took him
I: By hand?
E: Point of my rifle
I: Oh, okay.
E: I got him to come in, and I didn’t shoot him
I: After you were knocked down
E: Yeah. I got up and he was out there, and I, I could have killed him very easily, but I, but I didn’t. I took him prisoner and I passed him on back. I don’t know where he ended up. But I know I always thought that he was, was probably the gunner on that machine
gun that, that hit our squad leader, or the section leader. The, we never saw the section leader again. He was hit in the heel one foot, and he was evacuated and his days in the Korean War were done. We never heard again
what happened to him.
R: But I think you’re right. I kind of remembered about it, someone being hit in the heel. You’re right.
E: I don’t know.
E: After that, we got into a village of Soserbee where the well had been poisoned?
R: Um hm, yes.
E: And t hen the poor civilians didn’t, were now out of water. The well had been poisoned, and I remember that
and then another day or so there was a, we running out of time?
I: Good point. I’ll, so from Seoul, did you go back to Inchon?
R: No, no.
E: After, after the,
R: Yeah, you’re right. Wonsan.
I: What was the morale at the time? You successfully landed in Inchon and secured the Seoul again, the Capital city of Korea and went back to Wonsan like that, how was, what was the morale there at the time? Was it good?
R: Oh, I would think it was good, yeah., yeah. We were ready, yeah.
I: And did you know where you were headed and what you are supposed to do, why you going there?
R: Well personally, I don’t really, no, we did. We just followed our orders as I recall
I: Um hm.
R: And I didn’t think we were going to the Chosin, did you?
E: No. I didn’t, we didn’t know that we were going to Wonsan.
E: But we went around and we sailed up and down the coast there for days, and I remember the Missouri in the harbor at, at,
R: Um hm.
E: Very impressed with the size of that ship.
I: So you are 1st Regiment. Where were you in Changjin Reservoir? Do you remember
the name that you were
E: We were at Kotori.
I: You were in the Kotori.
R: Kotori, yeah, yeah.
I: Then you go up more?
R: No, we, we were
I: You were going up to the Kotori and stay there?
R: Kotori and stayed there, right.
I: Tell me about on the way to Kotori. Did you encounter any Chinese soldiers?
R: I don’t recall on the way to Kotori Chinese soldiers. I’m trying to remember, we were ambushed, but they were by
E: That was, that was
R: North Koreans.
E: After we got to Wonsan.
E: They sat us in a convoy up mountain pass to secure that pass. The North Korean soldiers were getting away, and we were sent up there to secure that pass so they couldn’t get through that anymore. And on the way up, they had barricaded the road and, and we,
we got up to where we were stopped, and they opened fire on us. They, things I remember were the enemy dead. The count I remember was 93 dead, and we had, seven of our guys that were killed, Sergeant Beard out of our outfit.
I: On the way to Kotori?
E: On, on, this is up to a,
a pass out of Wonsan before going to Kotori.
I: So Funchilin Pass you’re talking about?
E: I don’t know what the name of it was.
R: I’m not sure. They, they call the ambush [inaudible] If I remember, I had, I was on the
detail having to load the bodies onto a, onto the truck
R: Boy, that’s a horrible feeling, thing to do. But to just, you know, warm, limp, just, it just happened. And it’s just a
E: That ambush is where I got,
a bullet bounced off of my helmet.
E: It was discussed in that article.
E; Right there.
I: There is a picture, right?
I: Yeah, yeah. So did you have a real encounter with Chinese so close?
R: Oh yeah, yeah. We did.
E: Major [inaudible]
I: Tell me about it that happened.
E: After we got to, we were overrun at,
I: Um hm.
E: And that’s where we had a real encounter with them.
I: How close was it?
R: Too close. I could, that’s hard to say. Go ahead.
E: The first Chinese soldier I saw was from here to that door away from me. This was still dark at night.
I: It’s like 5 meters.
E: Yes. And he was carrying a
Thompson submachine gun, shooting, missed, I don’t know if he just missed me or didn’t see me. But I fired two rounds at him, and he went down. There was a lot of, I won’t say a lot, there was some of our flares that went up around us
and I could see
I: To light it up?
E: To light it up, yeah, and this is just a short time after I shot him, and there was the light was bright. I could see five enemy soldiers down around our tent. I was up on the hill just above, and I threw four hand grenades which two went off and killed those five
and, but there were also two hand grenades that didn’t go off. So I went down and, because they were in around our tent, I went down the next morning and dug them out of the snow, found them, threw them out in front of our lines. They’re still there as far as I know.
E: They didn’t go off. They were frozen, and
that’s when, just a few years ago we sit and talking like this and, I’ll let you
R: Okay. Well, it, for me, we had, it was com, it was dusk. We were eating. We just finished up some hot chow, that little set up there where we could have some hot chow. We’re, our tents were set up there and
I: Hot shower?
R: Chow. We call it food. Hot. We had our mess kits and we were able to eat a little hot chow. It was cold
bitter, snow and all that. But I, my recollection is that we were ordered to get, get your gear right away. We could, we waited, I remember dropping some mortar fire on us or something. We were gonna, they’re coming at us. We’re being attacked. But we were ordered to get into our foxholes, get our gear, and, so we did. We grabbed our gear, and I, I, on that hill you’re talking about it, I was on the left flank. There was a foxhole
right there, and in front of me there were two other foxholes, and our tent was just slightly below it, my little foxhole. The rest of the guys were up above the hill, the rest of the guys. But anyway, all heck, pardon the word, but all hell broke loose, and as I recall it was getting dark, flares are blowing up, and the two guys in front of me on the other foxholes were, were
they scrambled out. They just want to get away from it, up on the hill. They left me alone, and, and it was just too late to move or get out because I would have been seen. The enemy, the Chinese were coming around to my left flank toward our tent, and I was able to get off one round with my carbine, Adam. I’m not sure if I hit him or not because it started jamming, it just jammed up on me. It was just too cold I couldn’t fire it. And I knew that if I tried to scramble away from there, up top I would have been seen.
So I just laid perfectly still, played dead because I was at a slope where they could see me, and I could hear them and see them shooting up our tent, and you talked about that.
E: Unm hm.
R: Then all of a sudden, grenades went off.
R: And killed them all, and they were moaning and groaning and dying, and I knew at that time I
could safely get to the top position which I did, and it wasn’t till later in years, maybe 40 years later
R: We, we, we connected with each other, we had, we, Ed was coming to our place. We had a visit, we went out to dinner with my wife and his wife, and they had, and we got to talking about that incident, and, and he was talking about his experience, about the grenades against the soldier, the Chinese Communists
and, and I said my God, Ed. You’re the guy that saved my life.
I: So Edwin threw
R: Yeah, he was the guy, he was the guy, yeah. Yeah.
E: Figured it saved him.
R: You did. Always wondered, you know, always wondered who it was, and I, yeah. It’s amazing.
I: So you didn’t know at the time.
R: No. No, no. It, it was just a, no we didn’t, or I
E: This was only about 15 years ago
that we connected these stories.
R: Yeah. I had no idea it was Ed all these years that did it for me, and to this day, we’re just like a brother, you know? We just very, very close. Yeah.
I: This is surreal.
E: Shooting at, at Chinese soldier was, you know, it was him or me, and
I, I because he was laying there, I did,
R: But you know what?
E: He wasn’t the first Chinese soldier that I’ve, There was a tank commander when this, when the tanks rolled up on us. The tanks were knocked out, and the guy that, oh, two stories. The guy that knocked
out the tanks and got a Silver Star for, or I mean a, a, when you get, Medal of Honor for knocking out those tanks that was right in front of us, and the tanks commander from the third take and the three of them came up was playing dead, and our guys, when it got light, built a little fire, and they were
eating the C-ration cans, and I just happened to be down maybe 15 or 20 yards away from them down the hill, and I saw this body lifting up, and, and he had a burp gun, and he was coming up to shoot the three or four guys that were around our little fire
R: Um hm.
E: And I shot him, he was the first one that I killed. The, uh, go back Shooting the, the Chinese soldier that was in the pitch black after we’d been overrun. He was one that overrun us. It was just, it was nothing.
He was there, and he was attacking us, and I had no feelings one way or the other. So.
R: I guess you get that way, too, after that event because next day, if you recall it, they, the bodies, they just froze in the exact position that they fell, and boy, as far as you could see was just bodies all over, and including Marines.
And they, you got very bitter at the time, you know. But you do what you have to do.
I: Yeah. Do you have a PTSD?
R: Yeah. Yeah.
R: We both do, yeah.
E: I know that the psychologist, whatever she was that I talked to, it happened the other, not too long
ago, you know, and it’s, she rated me at 73% which I didn’t know about.
I And you really don’t know when you have a reaction, right?
R: But you don’t really know. Pardon?
I: Are you conscious of your reaction while having nightmare and you just woke up and you
R: Well, we do strange things, I guess while you’re sleeping, although I understand according to my wife.
E: Yeah, ask Betty what, what she. I know she talks about a reaction.
I: I’ll ask her later.
R: Okay. Yeah. It’s hard to say when it’s gonna come up or surface, but it’s there all the time. You just, you try to live a normal life. In most cases you do, you know, continue on with your private careers and whatever. But you, you just don’t lose it.
I: Hm. Any other episode you want to add to this interview about the Kotori?
R: Let me think a second here. Well, it was a long walk back, that’s for sure.
E: I remember their, had a bull dozer digging a hole.
R: Yes. Yes.
E: Dragging bodies into that
E: Into that hole and covering them up
R: I remember that, too, Ed. It was
I: What bodies?
R: The frozen bodies and no,
E: I think they were all North Koreans.
R: No, I don’t think they did, with our Americans, no. No, that was, you’re right. I remember that.
E: And then
E: Not too long after that, we were, I don’t know, a few days we were told to pack up and we were the tail end of the
line going down the hill.
I: Um hm.
R: Um hm.
I: And back to Hungnam, right?
I Yes. And you were evacuated to Pusan?
I: And from there, you had Christmas dinner, right, at Pusan or Masan?
R: The what?
I: Masan? Masan?
R: Oh, Masan, yeah, okay.
I: It’s Masan.
R: Oh, Masan. Alright.
I: But anyway, so you had a Christmas dinner there?
R: Yes, we did.
We did, I remember
I: That was without the promise that you going to be home by Christmas, but you were in Pusan again.
E: We were, that, that rumor was, was killed shortly after got, we got to Masan. Chesty gave a speech when we all got there and told us that that rumor was just that, a rumor, and we weren’t gonna be home for Christmas.
E: But, I don’t know. I guess I never expected to be home for Christmas.
E: Just happy to get aboard a ship there
R: I recall the
E: not even knowing where we were going.
R: I recall.
E: To Wonsan.
R: Christmas Eve I remember we, if I recall, Ed, I kind of was able to get together with some of my Marines
who I left with from Tucson, Arizona, had this tent. It had a mast there. They, a lot of us were gathered there, and they, one guy in particular, I think it was Raul Raez as I recall, one of the Tucson Marines I went over with started singing, Markita Lenda I think that’s the name of the song. When Makita Lenda or something like that in Spanish. It was so beautiful. It was just a beautiful night. He was singing and then this, I was homesick
like the rest of them were on Christmas Eve, and it was so pretty. I’ll never forget that, and he’s since passed away of course, but it’s a memory that stays with me, you know. It just, my first Christmas away from home.
I: Were you able to write letter back to your family?
R: Oh yes.
R: Oh yeah. Quite a bit, every chance I had I wrote, and they wrote back.
E: I probably got the last letter out of, out of
Kotori that went out. They had Douglas divebombers, they were torpedo bombers off a carrier. We’d come in landing at, at Kotori, and, and taking out wounded, and they had that big bay underneath for a torpedo, and I had a postcard
that I had written to my mother, and I wanted to, to mail it. Well, he was the last flight that went out from ours, and he was sitting at the end of the runway and revving up his engine and getting ready to take off down the runway with it. Well, I was running toward him down the middle of the runway blocking his taking off
and I was waving my letter, and when I got up close and he saw what I had, he waved me up, and I crawled up on the wing, he opened his cockpit window about that much, it slide, and I handed him the, the postcard, and he took off and I went sliding off the wing and
I: It should be in the movie.
R: Yeah. That’s a cute, that’s a cute story.
E: But my mother kept every letter, everything I sent to her, and their, they still exist
E: And that, in, well, I have them now. My mother’s dead.
I: You have it?
E: Yes, I have that postcard.
R: Isn’t that amazing?
I: You have to, as I told you I have more than 8,000
R: Um hm.
I: letters, everything. You have to, I, I, I scanned it, I return them back to the veterans. You can scan it; you know how to scan? You have young children around you?
I: Ask them to scan it and send it to me. Can you do that, or you can
E: Oh, I can get, I can get my son to
E: scan it.
I: The letters that you can, with the envelope
front and back, okay? Scan all of it, and the letters.
E: The letters don’t say anything. Every letter I went through not, a while back, a few, got up the nerve to open those letters up and, and read them, some of them, and every one is just about exactly the same. The only thing I wrote about was the weather.
E: That kind of weather we had
and nothing about the, the combat or even little, the living conditions. That, that postcard said something about see you before too long and, but yeah, I’d be happy to.
I: Would you?
E: Yeah, you know, you don’t you wouldn’t want all of them I don’t think.
I: All of it.
E: Would you?
I: Scan it, yeah, scan it and send it to me, okay?
I: I’ll pay for the shipping and everything, right? But please do that.
I: We are recording it, okay?
I: But that, that, that, that scene that you were just giving this postcard to the flying
R: That’s a great, great story. It really is. I I kept, my mother kept all my letters, too. Would you believe that? I didn’t know that until
she passed away, and my brothers and sisters were going through her personal belongings and found all my letters, and I tried to get them in order according to the dates they were written, and I couldn’t remember my own, I could hardly read
E: What about your ex-wife?
R: Well, I don’t know about that. I don’t know what she did with those [inaudible] I haven’t re-read all the letters yet, but I gave them to my daughter to keep, and she started re-typing every little letter
so I could read them because I couldn’t even read my handwriting at the time. But, and so I’ve got a, I’ve got a folder of some of those that she didn’t complete the project yet, but
I: Ralph, complete the project. Send it to me as [inaudible] okay?
R: Yeah. I’ve gotta do that. I, I’ve gotta read them first to make sure there’s nothing personal in there. Too personal.
I: Just [inaudible] something that is over at 19 year old.
E: My handwriting is terrible, still is.
R: Yeah, yeah.
I: It won’t be like a project for students to decipher your handwriting.
R: You know, one funny thing. We had some funny moments, too, in, going back a bit and things I recall was, I imagine this happens with a lot of guys. But I took one of our little grenades and I took it apart and tossed, the detonator part exploded. Shipped it back to my family. It was harmless. When they opened that package, they just about died.
They really did. But it was funny. And then one little, when did this incident happen? Do you recall when we were, this [inaudible] was on fire, this [inaudible] it was on fire, and they had a bucket brigade going on trying to get them to put it out, and they, and it was, it was gasoline in one of them
E: Bill Emory.
R: Bill Emory had gasoline in one of the buckets, passed it along over the line and burned down the flattened
It was burned down to the bottom of the, of the house. It was just awful. We were, I think I have a picture of that.
E: I do. I took a picture of that.
R: Oh, you took a picture of that?
R: Oh my God.
I: You have to scan and give it to me.
R: That was a funny
I; After Masan, where did you go? Did you go up to 38th Parallel?
E: We went to, back to Pusan, got aboard the ship, and sailed up to Wonsan Harbor, and on the way we sailed up the coast daytime and
nighttime, we’d turn around, sail back down, and we did that for
E: Well I think I could
I: Af, after you evacuated from Hungnam, you went back again and again?
E: We, this was after Christmas. It was in January. In fact, it was, where were we?
In January was my birthday, my 20th birthday.
I: Um hm.
E: And I remember that, I remember the guys were all wishing me Happy Birthday. I remember that there was a barbershop, Korean barbershop in that little town, and I remember the guys getting shaved. I know I got my head shaved there.
R: Um hm.
R: Um hm.
R: I think I’ve, can’t remember that area too well. I remember that we
R: It was a little village of some sort, wasn’t able to
I: But why have you been back and forth from Pusan to Wonsan?
R: I’m not sure why we went. It was just
E: I felt that was to confuse the,
the spotters that, here’s the, you know, here’s our convoy of troops going up north and, and sneaking back in the daytime, going up, and we did that for a week or so, and
I: I never heard about it.
I: To confuse North Koreans and enemies, right?
I: Wow. And then you go to 38th Parallel or what happened?
E: Then we, we went ashore at, at Wonsan, and we went down the coast, convoyed down the coast to, I think it was something like Sosaree or, it was a town where a platoon or so of Marines got killed in their sleeping bags. They did
not have a watch out, and the North Koreans or the Chinese, I didn’t know by that time, had snuck up on them and, and killed all of them in their sleeping bags. I don’t
I: After that, did you go?
E: We were, we went there. We were there a few days. I saw my first helicopter ever, came in and landed on the beach.
I took a bath in salt water, I remember that. Do you? You remember that/
R: Um hm, Yes I do. Yes. Yes, I do.
R: That was great.
E: And then, then we went back up to Wonsan.
R: Um hm, um hm.
E: That’s where we got in the convoy. They went up the mountain where we were ambushed, and there was a, we had a lot of people killed, 92 or 93
E: This was outside of Wonsan going, going west out of Wonsan up the mountain.
I: You’re telling me that after you evacuated from Kotori and Hungnam and then going back to Wonsan again and then had a battle there.
E: Well, well we were, we were at Kotori, down to Hungnam and to Wonsan, and then from there we, we had a convoy
that went up to this pass, and I don’t remember what it’s called exactly.
I: Funchilin Pass.
I: So that, that’s in 1950 you talking about, right?
E: This is, this is still
R: That was, yeah
E: Just around Christmas, it’s in December, end of December. And
that’s where, where I had the, got the dent in my helmet and
I: Yeah. When did you leave Korea, two of you?
R: Well, I left, if I recall it was June of 1950, I believe.
R: ’51, yes, ‘ 51. June 1951
I: So you left Kor
E: I left a month before him.
I: Oh boy. How did you feel about that?
R: Oh, fine. I can hardly wait till we, to leave myself. I, it was a, I remember the night that was, I got the word that I was evacuating, and they were sending me back. Of course I was awake all night. You could hardly wait to, to leave. I, they were dropping, they were dropping some mortars in that eve, that night, and I just wanted, just wanted to be able to survive it, you know? So I can
catch a plane out, and it was, I just, I had mixed feelings, too. I just hated to leave my friends behind, my buddies, hoping they’d come back we can reunite at another time. But that’s my only regrets, you know. You like to, you’re glad you’re going, but then you have regrets of having to leave them behind because I know they
it’s, I’m sure they were concerned, too.
E: We, there was this story going around about some Marines that were scheduled to go home, and they were from the 11th Marines, Artillery Fire, and they were, the guys, the half a dozen or so that
were gonna go home were, their last night with their outfit they were pulled into the Headquarters to be safer, and they got bombarded by the enemy artillery fire, whatever they had, and killed every one of them. They never got any, they got notice they were going home, and then they got killed that night.
I don’t know who they were exactly. I just, we had that story going around.
I: That was back in May, right? You were notified that you were going to leave, but being killed
R: Oh that’s an awful
E: I got told that I was going home probably a, a day or day and a half before I actually left to go home.
I: Did you want to forget about this War when you left Korea?
R: Not really. No. I didn’t want to forget. I, it was an experience that I was glad that I was part of, and, but, and I still am, you know, and, and I was proud to be there as a Marine. You bet. I made a lot of close friendships with the ones I served with, and it’s there forever.
I, I still don’t want to forget it. In fact, I’m glad I served. I really, I am.
I: The two of you together now, that proves that the Marine and the Korean War made you real friend, right?
R: Oh, absolutely.
R: You better believe it, yeah.
I: Have you been back to Korea two of you?
R: We’ve had a, I’ve had an opportunity, but
E: So have I.
R: But I, I, you know, circumstances prevented me from going at that time, but, I don’t know. I, I do and I don’t. I have mixed feelings about that right now, but I imagine if I was offered it again I’d, if I did go I’d like to go back with Ed.
I: Edwin, do you want to go?
E: I signed up to go at one time, and
it was the year that the Olympics were
E: Okay, that’s the year, and as it got closer I decided I didn’t really want to go or
E: I guess I didn’t want to revive memories that, that, that I had,
had pushed out of my mind at the time. Betty and I have talked about, a little bit about, about going
I: Um hm.
E: But I, I don’t have strong feelings about going.
I: What would you think two of you go back with Betty and is your wife still?
R: Oh yes.
I: Four of you go back
to a country that you fought for but you didn’t know anything about it, and see the real transformation that’s been made. Don’t you think it would be a kind of rewarding finally and put a closure on it?
R: I don’t know if it would be a closure. I’m not, I’m not trying to close it out of my mind, you know. It’s something you just, I fell I wanna, don’t wanna forget. I just, it’s a story to tell to my kids and to
I, I just, I don’t know. I just, it’s just don’t know how to answer that. I appreciate that we, we did our job, did it well, and the country’s been revitalized. It’s beautiful there. I, I see a lot of pictures about it and, and appreciate what the, the Koreans that I met along the way ever since have, have said to us about it.
how they appreciate what we’ve done for their country, and you know, it gives you, just fulfills a big part of me then. I was happy to be part of it, and, and did it with my guys, my buddies, my brothers, and, and someday this don’t want to forget. And I don’t think going back again is going to
fill the void, if there’s any. But I’m just, everything is, everything’s fine.
I: It’s been known as Forgotten War. Why is that?
E: I don’t know why. It’s, I don’t know why it’s, hasn’t gotten the, the publicity that, of course the size of World War II, I don’t know.
I: This is the article that written about you, and I lined, underlined there the parts that the author, who’s that author, wrote the reason for the forgoteness. Could you read that? Can you read it loud?
E: Out loud? Oh. I’m not very good at that. As a reminder, Korea has been called the Forgotten War. Since October 1951
when the U.S. News and world famous report gave it that nickname. In reality, Americans did not so much forget the Korean War, never wanting to think about it at all. When the war first broke out, people worried that American involvement would usher in the, the same type of rationing and full mobilization that had characterized World War II.
When that failed to occur within a few months, most Americans turned their back to the, to their own lives and ignored the conflict that was raging half a world away from the stalemate in late 1951. Few Americans wanted to read or think about Korea.
I: What do you think, Ralph?
R: I think he said it well.
I don’t know. Personally the Forgotten War, I, I don’t know what kind of a mindset they had at, at the time, but to those who served, you’ll never be forgotten. It’s a war, you know. Anytime you go to war, it’s a war, and why they give it a different name I, I’m not, I’m not certain. But maybe it’s just something that others want to forget, and especially those who
who lost some personal family members in it.
I: Ralph, do you agree with that? Do you agree with what’s
R: With Ed? You bet. Yeah.
I: No, Edwin.
E: Yeah. Oh yeah. People knew about it. It was in the papers.
E: But, I’m not sure about the
effect on, on the overall population.
B: I’m Betty Hanson.
I: Um hm, and
B: Edwin’s wife.
I: So married to the man in your right.
B: On my right, the man on my right.
I: When did you marry him?
B: We got married in 1977.
I: Um hm. And tell me how did he suffer from PTSD?
B: I think it’s mostly at night in his sleep.
He’ll wake up, and he’ll be talking. I can’t sometimes understand it, but, and then he’ll let out a cry sometimes at night which sometimes I don’t tell him because he probably doesn’t like to hear me tell him those things. But he does, and he’ll say get away. You get out. Get out now, and I don’t tell him those things anymore. I did at first, but I don’t do it anymore because I don’t
think he wants to hear it.
I: Um hm.
B: But other than that, I, this is the first time that I’ve hear Ralph’s story, and I haven’t heard all of Ed’s story.
I: Um hm.
B: And I don’t know if he’s told it to anybody or not. I know it was a rough time for him in Korea. I think it was a rough time for everybody in Korea.
B: The froze is what he got when he, he got the frozen feet which is very bad, and
I presume that the memories of the times there are bad is what he thinks about at night. I mean, the outcries. At first, when we were first married, I said don’t do that. You wake me up at night.
I: Uh huh.
B: What are you doing, you know? Now I know what it is. He was just a young kid. I went to a hospital where the servicemen came back from World War II.
I saw a lot of that and heard a lot of that from the War, and it’s, it’s hard on them. In their sleep they talk about it. It, it’s not a nice thing to remember. It’s not a nice thing.
I: Edwin, what is Korea to you now after all those years? What is Korea to you?
E: It’s a, a memory that
that I’ve had inside of me for a long, long time. I have not discussed it with anybody in the depth that I have this evening. I have, parts of it I have talked to my sons
not very much. It, I don’t know. It’s, it’s there, and a lot of it came out today. Hasn’t ever come out before, yeah. I feel
strongly that we did right. I remember when MacArthur was running things over there, and he wanted to use nuclear weapons, and I know that, I would say, say 100% of us that were on the ground didn’t want to see that.
I: Um hm.
E: We didn’t know much about it at that time,
but we knew enough that we didn’t want to see it. That’s why, when I came back from Korea, I, I had been going to college. I went back to college, and I got a degree in Mechanical Engineering, and I was hired after, after graduation, by the University of California, Radiation Lab, and
I: It’s okay. Just go ahead. It’s okay.
E: My job with the University was working at the, the nuclear
E: Well, not nuclear waste
My first job was working on the 90” Cyclotron we had at the lab, and, and we had a Lindy Accelerator. I was building equipment for that, those two machines. But not too long after that I got transferred to Device Division and got into
building nuclear explosives, designing and building nuclear explosives. And I have probably built somewhere around 20 nuclear devices, put them together with my own hands, plutonium, uranium, salt and took them to the field and blew them up.
I: You mean nuclear plants or bomb?
E: Nuclear bombs, tested them in the,
the desert at the Nevada test site. My biggest one was a megaton
I: Um hm.
E: Which is very, very large, and the smallest one was one or two kilotons. But I kept building those things it was old hat after a while. Physics
changed in each, you know, but I would, I would take, what we called the Physics design and, which is nuclear bombs are built up in layers and then imploded, and the physicist would design that part of it, and then my job was to
take that information, turn it into drawings, engineering drawings, take them to the factory where the parts were built. When the parts were built I’d take them back to, to the test site, and, and they were detonated.
I: Any message that you want to give to Koreans?
Any message to give to Korea?
E: I’m just, I’m just very happy that they’ve, they’ve developed their country and their, their, huh?
B: Manufacturing. They have a lot of manufacturing and everything now.
Their welfare is so great that as a, as a, so much has gone on in how they’ve developed their country that I think it’s fantastic[inaudible] I’m very happy to see it’s gone that way. I don’t know if other nations could or have done
The Japanese have done a lot, but not, I don’t think they’ve done it in the, to the extent the Koreans have.
I: Thank you, Edwin. Could you, what is Korea to you, Ralph?
R: To me
I: Now, after 65 years.
R: I just, it just pleases me that we did something that
benefits all, especially the South Koreans. It’s just good to see that we were part of the, of the, of, of how they prospered and how we’re appreciated by the South Koreans wherever we go. I’ve, I experienced that personally with some of them I’ve met over the years, and, and it’s just gratifying to know that you were part of, of the battle and, and part of their growth today.
[End of Recorded Material]